January 3, 2014
We Were Safe
Dinosaur Jr / MGMT @ Barclays Center Dec 12th 2013
by Jason Ribadenera
I’d never been to a big show like this before. In my dreams I pictured us being engulfed by a giant field of Long Islanders and smart phones while J Mascis mumbled from behind long grey hair. I was half right. I was making my way from East Longmeadow MA and it was my fault we were late as my bus had run into trouble at the border and our driver, whose name I carelessly didn’t commit to memory, was escorted off the coach and into an idling Dodge Caravan. He was eventually replaced with a homogenized version of James Earl Jones, whose famous lead foot was all the rage in the late 80’s. I don’t know what the fuck I’m saying, but the point is is that I got into NYC two hours behind the eight-ball. Thems, as they say, the motherfucking breaks. Anyways, I took full responsibility for my tardiness and we came up from the subway looking at the Barclays Center with nervous eyes in awe. As we approached it’s mouth I spotted a lonely silver chain laying on the ground in front of the women scanning tickets. Was this some sick omen? A test? I was all set to just step over it when the voice started. “What if it’s real?” My insides kept up this question as my friend and editor Vals presented our tickets. Finally I copped a casual knee and slipped this new found floss into my coat pocket like it never happened. That subtlety proved to be in vain because next up was the security checkpoint where I was forced to remove all metal on my person and gently place it in the plastic tray. “Bastards!” I thought.”That’s it for me, they’ll never let this slide,” and I prepared myself to be taken away but wouldn’t you know it, I was suddenly on the other side of the walk-through weapons detector and I was safe. We, were safe. Dinosaur Jr was already playing so we picked up the pace. I heard “The Wagon” as we ran through the outer sanctum, dodging 12 year old girls with chain wallets, looking for gate number 19. “Don’t look back,” I reasoned “For yr own good.” We found our section and were released into the void that is The Barclays Center.
We had seats to the right of the stage and back about 2 million feets and we settled into them as Mascis ran through the opening chords of “Watch The Corners”. Watching a band like Dinosaur from these feets away is obviously not the preferred vantage point but whatever, I was happy to be in Brooklyn with my friend listening to music and that’s about all I’ll say about that. The sound however is a whole ‘nother story to which I’ll speak freely. It was all guitar with what sounded like one big cymbal/bass drum combo eating up anything that dared cross them, including the vocals. It was like listening to someone scream for their life from inside a locked closet. Not that I know what that sounds like of course. Vals says that a big place like this is impossible to fill up with a balanced mix but I felt as if my ears were filled with cottonmouth. Oh well. Since we arrived late I don’t know what their full set was like but they played “Rude”, “Feel The Pain” and “Freak Scene.” J Mascis only talked once and it was mostly unintelligible. Alls I could make out sounded like “Thanks for shopping with him” which can’t be what he said but then again maybe it was. Come to think of it that kinda makes perfect sense. It was like watching them from across the room on Nanas really loud TV. Lou Barlow jumped around all the same so… yeah.
I talked to Vals and we wondered if we could get down to the floor level and be allowed to “stand up among our people”. I made the journey down the long stairway where I met a man and a woman wearing black blazers and casually talking on their walkie talkies. I smelled the faint scent of Drakkar and I think… blood. Anyways, they wouldn’t let me through and told me in no uncertain terms that I was to go back to my seat because I didn’t “have what it takes.” Funny that they should put it that way but I instinctively backed off and made my ascent back up the stairs. I noticed lots of people making eye contact with me in the constant stream of bodies. It seemed as if this continued throughout the entire show; people constantly arriving or leaving. But I digress. “No dice,” I told Vals, “They’re on to us.”
MGMT began their show with some weak ass pseudo-trippy graphics display and a voice saying their name over and over again. MGMT. MGMT! MGMT!!!! For some reason it made me feel sort of self-conscious. The boys walked out to their respective spots all dressed in white and quietly begin with “Flash Delirium.” Right off the bat I could tell how much louder and more balanced their sound was compared to J, Lou and Murph and it confirmed a sneaking suspicion that I had been, up until then, denying internally. Dinosaur was opening for MGMT. I had read this a couple of times from angry faceless people on the computer but wouldn’t give it any real credit. Guess I really wanted to massage the fantasy that they were just co-headlining the bill but as MGMT played it was clear that Dino was the supporting act. All the earmarks were there. The louder, clearer mix, the houselights gone a-blaze, the tweenage affections run amok. Even the Dads were into it. I suddenly realized, though, that this fact was null and void when I remembered that I live in a world where people actually argue about the race of Santa Clause. I hung my head, I hung my head. Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?
Nothing was really bringing me back from that cold embarrassing truth so I did what any other aging punk would do when faced with reality. I sat down. I tried to break out of my funk and came close when the drums kicked in at the beginning of “Time To Pretend” but it seemed as if even the band had come to the same conclusion as me. We’re a doomed people on a doomed dirt and it’s a borrowed time we’re dancing in. Then, all of sudden, I realized that when the world is burning out of control all around you it might make the best sense to put down the hose and grab a pack of matches. You know!? I grabbed Vals and bopped with her as they did “Kids.” If you can’t beat ’em…
After “Alien Days” the boys sauntered off and the house lights came on as a sea of bodies streamed by us. In back of us I thought I heard a voice say that they were going to come back out and play “Congratulations” which is one of my favorites so I turned around to make sure I had heard right. I asked what turned out to be a short, stocky blonde girl no older than 14 if she was sure that they were coming back to play that song. I thought it was an innocent enough question, I mean how was she so confident in the fact that they not only were going to come back out but also know the specific song that they were going to play? “I’m sure,” she said with a temperature dropping monotone. There was a brief moment of silence following her deadpan remark and I watched as her eye lids relaxed and she died inside. I looked at Vals and we started laughing hysterically. It was the perfect ending to a really fucking weird night. After about 5 minutes I said “This chick lied to us, let’s go” and we split. We were near the concession stands and almost out the door when, wouldn’t you know it, we heard them going into “Congratulations” so we popped back in and swayed till the very end. As soon as the last chord was strummed we were out in the trenches again, following the cold air for the exit. I noticed a loose filling in a back molar and felt it fall into that space between cheek and jaw. I was paying the price for questioning the youth. It was, as they say, obvious. I have yet to make a dentist appointment to have it replaced. My reasoning, you may ask? Like I said. Fuck it. The world is on fire.
See you in heaven.
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